This article was updated on May 5, 2015 at 4:49 p.m.
Drones have been in and out of the news for quite some time now, but just recently a Pennsylvania firm has decided to use them for work rather than play.
Identified Technologies is hoping that oil and gas operators will use its fleet of drones to survey and maintain projects, which will be cheaper and safer. CEO Dick Zhang came across the business idea while working with the drones at the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, but it was after he left GRASP when he discovered the industry demand for drones. Zhang was performing a typical field test at a construction site when the idea stuck him:
I get a call next day [from the site manager]. He said ‘listen we’re kicking off this new project next week, how much would it cost to get this thing on site?’ So the fact that he was so forward and was so quick to get interested piqued my attention.
Identified Technologies’ drones are self-piloting and proved 2-D and 3-D mapping options, which can be shared in real time. The drones will not only make surveying safer and cost effective, they will also reduce the need for manpower and get the job done faster. Traditional surveying can take several hours, even weeks, to complete. With Zhang’s drones, the process can be completed within minutes:
Some of our clients used to wait 8 to 10 weeks for aerial mapping data from a helicopter … we can do the same thing but instead of 8 weeks we’ll do it in 15 minutes.
Operators in the Marcellus Shale formation have taken serious interest in the idea of using drones for surveying, construction and post-construction work at pipelines, drilling pads and plants. Zhang explained that energy firms have great opportunity to improve the efficiency of infrastructure and boost safety by using the self-piloting drones.
When the drones aren’t in use, they are placed at a docking station that is placed at the site they are being used at. The docking station, which is set up at the project site for the duration of the project, has the ability to charge and change out the batteries in the drones while allowing them to continue mapping.
The drones that the company has developed have one extremely promising feature the oil and gas firms will be able to utilize greatly, leak detection. Zhang said that in preliminary gas sensor tests the drones have shown assuring results and that the company has plans to conduct more tests. Zhang made the following comment regarding drone testing:
We’re working with customers and industry partners right now on testing and developing the capabilities. We hope to roll those out on a larger scale over the next two years.
As reported by Petro Global News, “The next big step for Identified Technologies’ drones will be using their real time data collection system to provide increased infrastructure monitoring and prevent catastrophic incidences.”
Identified Technologies’ Boomerang drone, which is about inches tall and 13 inches wide, can be used for onshore and offshore projects and has the capability to fly in winds up to 33 miles per hour.